Volume 6 Chapter 35 | BYU Studies

Volume 6 Chapter 35


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Chapter 35

Governor Ford in Nauvoo—News of the Martyrdom—Messages to Nauvoo—Arrival of the Bodies—Sorrowful Scenes—The Burial.

Governor Ford in Nauvoo.

Thursday, June 27th (continued).—In the meantime the Governor was making to the Saints in Nauvoo one of the most infamous and insulting speeches that ever fell from the lips of an executive. Among other things he said, "A great crime has been done by destroying the Expositor press and placing the city under martial law, and a severe atonement must be made, so prepare your minds for the emergency. Another cause of excitement is the fact of your having so many firearms. The public are afraid that you are going to use them against government. I know there is a great prejudice against you on account of your peculiar religion, but you ought to be praying Saints, not military Saints. Depend upon it, a little more misbehavior from the citizens, and the torch, which is already lighted, will be applied, and the city may be reduced to ashes, and extermination would inevitably follow; and it gives me great pain to think that there is danger of so many innocent women and children being exterminated. If anything of a serious character should befall the lives or property of the persons who are prosecuting your leaders, you will be held responsible."

Military Display.

The Governor was solicited to stay until morning, but he declined, and left Nauvoo at about 6:30 P.M. ; and in passing up Main Street his escort performed the sword exercise, giving all the passes, guards, cuts and thrusts, taking up the entire width of the street, and making as imposing a show as they could, until they passed Lyon's store, near the Masonic Hall. This was apparently done to intimidate the people, as the Governor had remarked in his speech that they need not expect to set themselves up against such "well disciplined troops."

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Soon after Captain Singleton and his company left for home.

Gov. Ford's Interception of Grant ant Bettisworth.

When the Governor and his party had proceeded about three miles from Nauvoo, they met two messengers (George D. Grant and David Bettisworth) hastening with the sad news to Nauvoo. The Governor took them back to Grant's house, one and one-half miles east of Carthage, with him in order to prevent their carrying the news until he and the authorities had removed the county records and public documents, and until most of the inhabitants had left Carthage. The Governor then proceeded towards Carthage, when Grant took another horse and rode into Nauvoo with the news that night.

Second Message to Nauvoo.

12 o'clock at night, 27th June,

Carthage, Hamilton's Tavern.

To Mrs. Emma Smith and Major General Dunham, &c.:

The Governor has just arrived; says all things shall be inquired into, and all right measures taken.

I say to all the citizens of Nauvoo, my brethren, be still, and know that God reigns. Don't rush out of the city—don't rush to Carthage—stay at home, and be prepared for an attack from Missouri mobbers. The Governor will render every assistance possible—has sent out orders for troops. Joseph and Hyrum are dead. We will prepare to move the bodies as soon as possible.

The people of the county are greatly excited, and fear the Mormons will come out and take vengeance. I have pledged my word the Mormons will stay at home as soon as they can be informed, and no violence will be on their part, and say to my brethren in Nauvoo, in the name of the Lord, be still, be patient, only let such friends as choose come here to see the bodies. Mr. Taylor's wounds are dressed and not serious. I am sound.

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Willard Richards,

John Taylor,

Samuel H. Smith.

Defend yourselves until protection can be furnished necessary. June 27th, 1844.

Thomas Ford,

Governor and Commander-in-Chief.

Mr. Orson Spencer:

Dear Sir:—Please deliberate on this matter—prudence may obviate material destruction. I was at my residence when this horrible crime was committed. It will be condemned by three-fourths of the citizens of the county. Be quiet, or you will be attacked from Missouri.

M. R. Deming.

It was near midnight before Dr. Richards could obtain any help or refreshment for John Taylor, who was badly wounded, nearly all the inhabitants of Carthage having fled in terror.

Departure of the Governor from the Danger Zone.

Friday, 28.—1 A.M. The Governor said the matter should be investigated, and that there was a great responsibility resting upon him. He also said he would send a messenger with an express for Dr. Richards, and wrote an order for the citizens of Nauvoo to defend themselves.

He then went to the public square, and advised all who were present to disperse, as he expected the Mormons would be so exasperated that they would come and burn the town, whereupon the citizens of Carthage fled in all directions, and the Governor and his posse fled towards Quincy, and did not consider themselves safe until they had reached Augusta, eighteen miles distant from Carthage.

Captain Singleton, of Brown county arrived in Carthage from Nauvoo with his troops.

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The Start for Nauvoo with the Bodies of the Martyrs.

About 8 A.M. Dr. Richards started for Nauvoo with the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum on two wagons, accompanied by their brother Samuel M. Smith, Mr. Hamilton, and a guard of eight soldiers who had been detached for that purpose by General Deming. The bodies were covered with bushes to keep them from the hot sun. They were met by a great assemblage of citizens of Nauvoo, on Mulholland Street, about a mile east of the Temple, about three P.M. under direction of the city marshal.

The City Council, the Lieut.-General's staff, Major. General Jonathan Dunham and staff, the acting Brigadier-General Hosea Stout and staff, commanders and officers of the Legion, and several thousands of the citizens were there amid the most solemn lamentations and wailings that ever ascended into the ears of the Lord of Hosts to be avenged of their enemies.

When the procession arrived, the bodies were both taken into the Nauvoo Mansion. The scene there cannot be described.

The Address of Dr. Richards et. al.

About eight or ten thousand persons were addressed by Dr. Willard Richards, William W. Phelps, Esquires Woods and Reid of Iowa, and Col. Stephen Markham. Dr. Richards admonished the people to keep the peace, stating that he had pledged his honor, and his life for their good conduct, when the people with one united voice resolved to trust to the law for a remedy of such a high-handed assassination, and when that failed, to call upon God to avenge them of their wrongs.

O, Americans, weep, for the glory of freedom has departed!

When the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum arrived at the Mansion, the doors were closed immediately. The people were told to go quietly home, and the bodies would be viewed the next morning at eight o'clock.

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Preparation of the Bodies for Burial.

Dimick B. Huntington, with the assistance of William Marks and William D. Huntington, washed the bodies from head to foot. Joseph was shot in the right breast, also under the heart, in the lower part of his bowels and the right side, and on the back part of the right hip. One ball had come out at the right shoulder-blade. Cotton soaked in camphor was put into each wound, and the bodies laid out with fine plain drawers and shirt, white neckerchiefs, white cotton stockings and white shrouds. (Gilbert Goldsmith was doorkeeper at the time).

After this was done, Emma (who at the time was pregnant) also Mary (Hyrum's wife) with the children of the martyred Prophet and Patriarch, were admitted to see the bodies. On first seeing the corpse of her husband, Emma screamed and fell back, but was caught and supported by Dimick B. Huntington. She then fell forward to the Prophet's face and kissed him, calling him by name, and begged him to speak to her once. Mary, (the Patriarch's wife) manifested calmness and composure throughout the trying scene, which was affecting in the extreme. Relatives and particular friends were also permitted to view the remains during the evening.

Saturday 29.—At 7 A.M. the bodies were put into the coffins which were covered with black velvet fastened with brass nails. Over the face of each corpse a lid was hung with brass hinges, under which was a square of glass to protect the face, and the coffin was lined with white cambric. The coffins were then each put into a rough pine box.

Lying in State.

At 8 A.M. the room was thrown open for the Saints to view the bodies of their martyred Prophet and Patriarch, and it is estimated that over ten thousand persons visited the remains that day, as there was a perfect living stream of people entering in at the west door of the Mansion and out at the north door from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M., at which hour a request was made that the Mansion should be cleared, so that the family could take their farewell look at the remains.

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The coffins were then taken out of the boxes into the little bedroom in the northeast corner of the Mansion, and there concealed and the doors locked. Bags of sand were then placed in each end of the boxes, which were nailed up, and a mock funeral took place, the boxes being put into a hearse and driven to the graveyard by William D. Huntington, and there deposited in a grave with the usual ceremonies. This was done to prevent enemies of the martyred Prophet and Patriarch getting possession of the bodies, as they threatened they would do. As the hearse passed the meeting ground accompanied by a few men, William W. Phelps was preaching the funeral sermon.

The Real Burial.

About midnight the coffins containing the bodies were taken from the Mansion by Dimick B. Huntington, Edward Hunter, William D. Huntington, William Marks, Jonathan H. Holmes, Gilbert Goldsmith, Alpheus Cutler, Lorenzo D. Wasson, and Philip B. Lewis, preceded by James Emmett as guard with his musket.

They went through the garden, round by the pump, and were conveyed to the Nauvoo house, which was then built to the first joists of the basement, and buried in the basement story.

After the bodies were interred, and the ground smoothed off as it was before, and chips of wood and stone and other rubbish thrown over, so as to make it appear like the rest of the ground around the graves, a most terrific shower of rain, accompanied with thunder and lightning, occurred, and obliterated all traces of the fact that the earth had been newly dug.

The bodies remained in the cellar of the Nauvoo House where they were buried, until the fall, when they were removed by Dimick B. Huntington, William D. Huntington, Jonathan H. Holmes, and Gilbert Goldsmith, at Emma's request, to near the Mansion, and buried side by side, and the bee house then moved and placed over their graves.

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The deceased children of Joseph were afterwards removed and interred in the same place. It was found at this time that two of Hyrum's teeth had fallen into the inside of his mouth, supposed to have been done by a ball at the time of the martyrdom, but which was not discovered at the time he was laid out, in consequence of his jaws being tied up.
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[It is thought proper that this volume, which brings the History of the Church to close of its first Period—the administration of its First President, and, by way of pre-eminence the Prophet of the New Dispensation of the Gospel, should close with the official statement of the Martyrdom of the Prophet and the Patriarch. A statement so true, and conservative, and excellent that now for a long time it has been published in the "Doctrine and Covenants."]

Martyrdom of Joseph Smith, The Prophet, and His Brother Hyrum.

(From the Doctrine and Covenants).

To seal the testimony of this book and the Book of Mormon, we announce the Martyrdom of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and Hyrum Smith the Patriarch. They were shot in Carthage jail, on the 27th of June, 1844, about 5 o'clock P.M., by an armed mob, painted black—of from 150 to 200 persons. Hyrum was shot first and fell calmly, exclaiming, "I am a dead man!" Joseph leaped from the window and was shot dead in the attempt, exclaiming, "O Lord, my God!" They were both shot after they were dead in a brutal manner, and both received four balls.

John Taylor and Willard Richards, two of the Twelve, were the only persons in the room at the time; the former was wounded in a savage manner with four balls, but has since recovered; the latter through the providence of God, escaped, "without even a hole in his robe."

Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more (save Jesus only) for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fullness of the everlasting Gospel which it contained to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city; and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people, and like most of the Lord's anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood—and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!

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When Joseph went to Carthage to deliver himself up to the pretended requirements of the law, two or three days previous to his assassination, he said:

"I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer's morning; I have a conscience void of offense toward God and towards all men. I shall die innocent, and it shall yet be said of me—he was murdered in cold blood."

The same morning after Hyrum had made ready to go—shall it be said to the slaughter? Yes, for so it was,—he read the following paragraph near the close of the fifth chapter of Ether, in the Book of Mormon, and turned down the leaf upon it:

"And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord that He would give unto the Gentiles grace that they might have charity. And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me, if they have not charity, it mattereth not unto you, thou hast been faithful: wherefore thy garments are clean. And because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shall be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father. And now I . . . bid farewell unto the Gentiles; yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood."

The testators are now dead, and their testament is in force.

Hyrum Smith was forty-four years old, February, 1844, and Joseph Smith was thirty-eight in December, 1843: and henceforward their names will be classed among the martyrs of religion; and the reader in every nation will be reminded that the Book of Mormon and this Book of Doctrine and Covenants of the Church, cost the best blood of the nineteenth century to bring them forth for the salvation of a ruined world; and that if the fire can scathe a green tree for the glory of God, how easy it will burn up the "dry trees" to purify the vineyard of corruption. They lived for glory, they died for glory; and glory is their eternal reward. From age to age shall their names go down to posterity as gems for the sanctified.

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They were innocent of any crime, as they had often been proved before, and were only confined in the jail by the conspiracy of traitors and wicked men; and their innocent blood on the floor of Carthage jail, is a broad seal affixed to "Mormonism" that cannot be rejected by any court on earth; and their innocent blood on the escutcheon of the State of Illinois with the broken faith of the State, as pledged by the Governor, is a witness to the truth of the everlasting gospel, that all the world cannot impeach; and their innocent blood on the banner of liberty, and on the magna charta of the United States is an ambassador for the religion of Jesus Christ that will touch the heart of honest men among all nations; and their innocent blood with the innocent blood of all the martyrs under the altar that John saw, will cry unto the Lord of Hosts, till He avenges that blood on the earth. Amen.

(End of Period I.)